First Members of PhDEL Interdisciplinary Program Graduate Aug. 8

Karolyn IsmayWhen Pacific celebrates its virtual August Commencement, a group of seven students will represent the first class of an interdisciplinary doctorate program aimed at experienced professionals in healthcare and education.

The students have completed a three-year (50-credit), low-residency curriculum for a PhD in Education & Leadership, designed to boost their competencies in a range of ways, including communication, innovative thinking and project management.

“The program has helped me grow particularly in the research arenas of mentoring and supervision of teacher candidates, as well as the co-construction of knowledge where theory meets practice in the field,” said Kate Eckert PhDEL ‘20, school and community partnership coordinator for Pacific’s College of Education.

The PhDEL is a joint program between the College of Education and the College of Health Professions, and it is Pacific’s first interprofessional graduate program.

Ryan Aiello MA ’06, PhDEL ‘20 is the dean of student development at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek Campus. He said he was drawn to the practical benefits of the PhDEL program. “I wanted to have the experience to do true research,” he said. “I wanted to contribute to that conversation on whatever topic I was choosing.” Aiello said he’s particularly interested in helping PCC better recruit and retain faculty and staff of color — something his job enables him to influence.

Karolyn Ismay PhDEL ’20 is a first generation American who worked in Student Life at Pacific and did some TA work early in the PhDEL program. Now she teaches research design courses and overseeing masters theses for MAEd and MEd students in the School of Learning & Teaching.

“I decided to pursue my doctorate to find an answer to a question that my colleagues in Student Affairs across the nation could not answer: What are the career experiences of resident assistants after they graduate, and what can we do today so that the job better serves them long after they've left campus?,” she said. “We often think we give them lots of career skills for the future, but we need proof. We need to listen to their stories and learn from them. It's just one facet of the RA leadership experience, but I had to know. My curiosity would not let it go.”

Corissa Mazurkiewicz, an assistant professor in the Pacific College of Education’s School of Learning and Teaching, said she is “deeply committed to supporting the mental health needs and wellbeing of pre-service teachers so that they may support the same in their K-12 students.” Her research is focused on mindfulness and wellbeing, attributes she hopes to cultivate in the educational system. Her research examined the correlation between mindfulness practices and levels of wellbeing.

“It was a ton of work, but it was an amazing experience and deeply fulfilling,” she said. “I realized how many people want to learn more about mindfulness and ways to cultivate well-being. I believe eudaemonia, or human flourishing, should be the foundation of all education, and I am inspired to continue my research in this area.”

The PhDEL students say they have appreciated the opportunity to work across disciplines, on a flexible schedule, with the ability to immediately put their work into practice in their careers. They said it has been a key step on the ladder of their careers.

Eckert said the program’s design — an interprofessional model between healthcare and education — “is actually a field of interest for me.” She said it helps healthcare professionals interact with peer professionals, such as nurses, therapists, social workers and speech-language pathologists, but hasn’t necessarily been done with K-12 educators.

Said Eckert: “I am dedicated to being a learner for the rest of my life.”

(Photo: Karolyn Ismay)

Monday, Aug. 3, 2020